Gordon Brown: The desolation here convinces me that this plan is urgent

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The Independent Online

Twenty five million people have already died from Aids. It is the world's deadliest disease today - and the least curable. With 75 million people infected, it is urgent that, in 2005, we act.

Twenty five million people have already died from Aids. It is the world's deadliest disease today - and the least curable. With 75 million people infected, it is urgent that, in 2005, we act.

In sub-Saharan Africa, over 2 million people will die this year and continue to die every year until we implement a comprehensive plan to prevent, treat, cure and tackle the poverty-related causes of HIV/Aids.

No continent, no country, no community is unaffected.

Yesterday, in Kenya, I met Aids orphans in the largest shanty town in sub-Saharan Africa. Today, I will see at first hand the effect of HIV/Aids on Tanzanian families.

With at least 11 million children in sub-Saharan Africa left without parents because of Aids and over 2 million children infected with HIV around the world, the desolation in the faces I would otherwise never see convinces me that the plan Hilary Benn and I are unveiling is urgent.

Our plan starts from the failure so far of research into a preventative vaccine. Only £400m is spent on researching and developing an Aids vaccine each year. Doubling funding for research could advance the discovery of an Aids vaccine by three years, saving six million lives.

But we must be more bold. The challenge is to internationalise research. So the Italian Finance Minister, Domenico Siniscalco, and I have agreed to push forward plans for a worldwide infrastructure for sharing and coordinating research into Aids and then for encouraging the development of viable drugs, vaccines and other technologies.

We need to build from funding development, production and trials to financing systems for advance purchasing. We must ensure that when a vaccine is developed, it goes into commercial production and is available at affordable prices. So Hilary Benn and I are inviting other countries to join us to explore a jointly agreed advance purchase scheme to make new HIV/Aids vaccines accessible to Africa.

Crucially, we must also do more to finance the treatment and care of those currently living with HIV/Aids and their families. We must increase resources to develop the healthcare systems with the well trained staff and equipment that are so desperately needed, as well as boost funding for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria established under the leadership of Kofi Annan - ensuring increased and predictable funding for essential medicines, treatment and healthcare in the most affected countries.

Finally, our HIV/Aids strategy must be underpinned by a broader anti-poverty strategy. The problems of HIV/Aids are inseparable from the problems of poverty. Ninety five per cent of those infected with HIV/Aids live in developing countries; 70 per cent live in sub-Saharan Africa.

Education reduces the chance of infection not just by spreading knowledge of prevention techniques but also by improving economic opportunities for poor people, reducing their vulnerability to high-risk activities. Yet, in sub-Saharan Africa, where HIV/Aids infection rates are highest, 14 per cent of children still do not go to primary school.

Good water supply and sanitation helps infected people stay healthier for longer. Yet 42 per cent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa live without access to clean water and 47 per cent lack access to adequate sanitation. So more funding for investment in education and sanitation is essential.

At least $10bn per annum is needed to address the HIV/Aids crisis in low and middle income countries. Existing financial commitments on their own will not stop the pandemic.

The UK's proposal for an International Finance Facility is so important - increasing world aid flows by over $50bn. A doubling of world aid to halve world poverty.

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